Welcome to the Quilting Board!
Try small projects, like Table Runners, Bed Runners, Mug Rugs and Coasters. Free motion quilt pebbles (or bubbles, like mine just turned into!) breathe, you are having fun! And if you get or feel "stuck" using white thread, on those smaller projects, use hot pink, or "road crew orange" thread! Those projects make me smile, even as I see my "bad" stitches!
By the way, those muslin practice sets, I cut up and edge them for coasters. Haven't had a single complaint yet. Yes, I did give these items to friends at work and they all "ooohd and ahhhhd" over them. And you don't have to use only muslin to practice on, I used green and Camo material and that lovely orange thread, made a little blanket for the dog to snooze on.
I've seen that people have turned their practice pieces into animal blankets, for the local animal rescues. Trust me, the dogs don't complain and while the cats may look snooty, they do love their blankets in the sun! The cats who claim me, all approve of each project, though they do complain about mug rugs not being big enough!
Enjoy yourself. Relax, you will do good!
I can understand your fright if it is going to be a wall hanging, meant to be handled, touched and examined on someone's wall like a painting, but if it is a baby blanket or a bed quilt, just do it. Most people will go "ooh" and "aah" and unless you point out the problems, they won't even think about the actual quilting part.
Quilting, like dancing, is an acquired skill. Even people who are great at it still have to practice. I think what worked for me, was to stop going for consistency. Sounds silly but it makes my quilting look better when I embrace the mistakes and use them as a jumping off point to do something else. I've only recently got into blending the 3 motifs that I know best and it looks ten times better than any of them do on their own. I love watching the long arm folks on youtube. It really helps me to grasp the "free-style" idea behind "free motion".
We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.
For me, what helped was taking one small bit at a time and writing messages in cursive. Most of my guild sisters started with meanders. My teacher suggested setting up a stack of potholders and quilting them, because they will be used even if you are less than thrilled with what you did. Regardless, jump in and do it.
Oh Margie, you sweet lady. What sort of awful adult would comment on your quilting skills when you present them with a comfy, cozy gift of love? Yes, quilting does elevate a quilt to something very different. I don't have that skill at the moment, but I'm learning. I have an embroidery machine and have done small pieces on it with great success. By small, I mean QAYG squares that will be sewn into larger pieces and doll quilts and wall hanging size quilts and runners. On larger quilts that are difficult to manipulate, I either do stitch in the ditch or parallel stitching. I've just started to do FMQ and am practicing on small pieces. I cannot yet imagine doing it on a large quilt. A QB friend who has a long arm told me that using it is like holding a pencil and drawing on a piece of paper while doing it on a regular sewing machine is like moving the paper around under the pencil to create a drawing. So much harder. Do the best you can do and take baby steps and know that you are learning with each quilt you make. If anyone dares to point out any errors, snatch that quilt right out of their hands! They don't deserve something from a lady as sweet as you!
Embrace each new day with gratitude
The only perfect quilts are the ones done on a computerized longarm and then only "if" they have been setup perfectly. Don't try to be perfect but instead try to have fun and enjoy your talents. It's like a lot of things in life, it just takes practice. If you enjoy it, it will be fun to practice. Muscle memory is a huge part of quilting so why not start with something your muscles already know, like you name?
Gail in Utah
Margie, take a look at this thread I just want some advice..... and especially the second post that links to a Leah Day video. I already learned something this morning!
Embrace each new day with gratitude
Practice on smaller objects such as the quilts for the kids..as you say they won't notice if you make mistakes and then dive in on a larger quilt..you will be surprised on your improvement with each one you quilt...show us some of your work when you finish...now off to the sewing room and get to work!!! lol
Practice practice practice -- and then wash the quilt and dry it in the dryer. It'll shrink everything up just enough that your stitches will look perfect whether they are or not!